Alumni Spotlight: Amanda Tollefson

Amanda Tollefson
2012 CLACS Alumnus, Amanda Tollefson

Amanda Tollefson, a December 2012 CLACS alumnus, shares her thoughts and experiences with us below. Amanda is currently the Office Manager at the International Crisis Group in New York.

CLACS: Can you please tell us about yourself?
AT: I received my BA degrees in Spanish and the Comparative History of Ideas with a minor in European Studies from the University of Washington (Seattle). As an undergraduate student, I studied in Italy, the Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Cuba. After graduation, I earned my divemaster certification on the island of Utila, Honduras; taught English in Cadiz, Spain for a year; and spent a year as a flight attendant for an international airline. While studying at CLACS, I completed an internship in the Communications/Media department at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court. I also participated in a study abroad program during the January session in Puebla, Mexico, through the Food Studies department.

CLACS: Why did you decide to come to CLACS NYU? What did you think of the program?
AT: I chose to do my Master’s at CLACS because it combined a flexible program with the unparalleled experience of being in New York City. As I knew I wanted to continue in the non-profit world, being able to take part in internships and networking in New York was important.

CLACS: Why did you choose Latin American and Caribbean Studies over other fields?
AT: I entered the program unsure of which academic discipline would best suit the research I wanted to complete, but I was very sure that I wanted my research to focus on Latin America. I decided a master’s in the region would best serve my interests in eventually completing a PhD.

CLACS: What was your Master’s Project on?
AT: My Master’s Project was titled: “‘Me Siento Más Boliviano Que Nunca’: Fútbol, Transnationalism, and Migrant Cultural Identification in the Buenos Aires Bolivian Community.” It explored the role of civic associations (looking at a specific community soccer league) in shaping a collective migrant cultural identity. I wrote it in an attempt to use sociocultural anthropology as a vehicle for synthesizing the complex topics of migration theories, the “us vs. them” mentality, discrimination, civil society, and a multitude of “isms” including nationalism, racism, and transnationalism.

CLACS: Did you have any surprises or difficulties when you conducted research abroad and in the field?
AT: I think I was very lucky in finding people in the field that were willing to engage with me during my research. I found a fantastic NGO who connected me to nearly all of my interviewees, and I’m very grateful for the experience. I definitely learned that all of the planning I had done beforehand went out the window while I was actually in the field. Likewise, the contacts I tried to make before leaving largely failed to pan out, while the contacts I made while actually in Argentina were incredibly helpful.

CLACS: How did you find your current job? What are your responsibilities?
AT: While at my internship at the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, I looked daily at the website for the International Crisis Group for updates about areas of conflict. While I had read a number of their reports before, the constant exposure to a variety of media outlets helped me understand what high-quality work Crisis Group produces. When I began my job search, I went directly to their website and applied for the open Office Manager position. In this role, I am in charge of the daily operations of the New York office, which includes administrative tasks as well as handling all of the office’s financial processes. I also serve as the supervisor for our 7-8 full-time interns.

CLACS: How do you think your experiences at CLACS helped you get to where you are today?  
AT: In particular, being able to complete my internship for CLACS certainly helped me get the position I currently have. In addition, being a founding member and treasurer of the Graduate Association for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (GALAS) gave me solid leadership skills that translate well both on a resume and in real life.

CLACS: What are some of your favorite things about NYU and NYC?
AT: I can’t say enough good things about New York and the incredible diversity of experiences the city offers. One of my favorite parts of attending NYU, though, was being able to interact with (and become friends with) so many remarkable people. Everyone at NYU, and in CLACS in particular, has an interesting story to tell, and connecting with colleagues who are both like-minded yet very different made my time there very worthwhile.

CLACS: Do you have any advice for current and future graduate students?
AT: Get involved in anything and everything that interests you – and if it doesn’t exist, create it!

Elizabeth Con is an MA Candidate at CLACS at NYU

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